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Social Services Structure and Function

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 1863 words Published: 8th Sep 2021

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There are many different structures for different organisations. I am going to be explaining the current structure of social services and am going to explain the effect of the management structure whilst looking at the main services that main sectors have to offer. I will explain the functioning of one social work setting and analyse the impact of social work with regards to a particular group. I will use a recent case for my chosen sector and evaluate the failings of the social services, who those failings effected and what has been done since to ensure it does not happen again.


Above is an example of how the Social Services Hierarchical structure looks. It follows the layout of a pyramid and derives into the base of staff level employees with usually the CEO or director at the top. There are many pros to having an organisation structure like this. It allows employees to see clearly who it is they need report to and makes obvious their levels of responsibility. This is critical to a social service organisation to safeguard not only themselves but their service users. A hieratical system, however, does also have its disadvantages. It promotes rivalry which could distract some who are particularly competitive. Martin, J and Fellenz, M (2010) suggest “Often Hierarchies are created not because they are functionally required but because they provide a venue for pushing unwanted people up in the organisation or for providing promotional avenue. These dysfunctional hierarchies are in fact the cause for reduced organisational effectiveness”

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Another common example of organisational structures is Matrix. The matrix structure groups its employees by function and product. The design of this structure is rather flat in comparison to that of the hierarchy. They usually work under the head of a project manager but also have a functional head who they would report to. An advantage of this is that it allows employees to specialise in a specific field but can sometimes also cause confusion as to who to report to.

Ealing social services offer many different services: childcare and early years, blue badge scheme, child protection and safe guarding, welfare benefits – low income, fostering and adoption and care homes. Im going to look at Child protection and safe guarding. Below is the hierarchical structure that Ealing use for their Children in need team:

Again it is clear to see who is in charge and who each employee needs to report to. At the top there are the team managers; below them is the deputy team manager. The deputy would be responsible for reporting to the team manager. Below the deputy there the social workers and senior social workers who are both responsible for reporting to the Deputy team manager. Below them there are social worker assistants who report to the social workers and senior social workers.

Ealing Social services children in need team (2011) state on their website: Children in Need team offer a social work service to families where children are deemed to be ‘in need’ as defined by section 17 of the Children Act 1989. They work predominantly with: Children whose names are on the child protection register, children deemed to be in need of family support services due to an assessed level of need and children with a disability that is not deemed to be ‘severe and profound’ – the latter are referred to the Children with Disability Team. Social workers will assess family needs and draw up a family support package with parents to enable children to be safely and effectively cared for within their families. The team are trying to improve the lives of their service users by providing a support which can be empowering. They have a responsibility to ensure children and young people who may be marginalised are safeguarded whilst promoting their welfare. They have other teams who they work in partnership with such as the Youth Offending team who try to prevent re offending among youths and provide support for victims of youth crime. These statutory organisations are funded by the government. Although these teams do the best they can to improve the lives of marginalised children and youths, mistakes can and do happen. This can lead to drastic effects on not only the service user but the organisation as a whole especially if one has not followed the code of conduct provided by the social services.

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There was an enquiry made intro the death of Victoria Climbie Who died aged eight on the 25th February 2000. She died from multiple injuries. Marie-Therese Kouao was Victoria’s Aunt and career she lived with her Boyfriend Carl Manning from whom Victoria received vicious abuse from. In 1999 she was first taken to the hospital by her child-minder who suspected the girl had non accidental injuries but the doctor accepted Kouao’s story that the wounds were self-inflicted by scratching at scabies sores. The child protection authorities were alerted as a precaution. Social worker Lisa Arthurworrey and PC Karen Jones were assigned to the case and conducted a home visit . Later the same year Victoria was admitted to hospital again. This time for scaulding to her head and face. Immediately doctors suspected that these injuries were deliberately inflicted. Kouao told Arthurworrey and Jones that the injuries were due to her pouring hot water over Victoria’s head to stop her from scratching her scalp and that other injuries on her were caused by Victoria using utensils. These explanations were accepted by the child protection authorities and Victoria was collected from hospital by Kouao. Evidence reveals that Victoria was forced by Manning to sleep in the bath with just a bin liner. In the same year of 1999 Kouao advised social workers that Victoria had been sexually assaulted by Manning but withdrew her statement the next day. PC Jones was to investigate this but after no reply to the letter she sent to Kouao she took no further action. Early 2000 Victoria was again admitted to the hospital. This time for a combination of malnutrition and hypothermia and she was transferred to an intensive care ward. She died the next day. DR Nathaniel Carey, the home office pathologist examined Victoria and found 128 different injury’s and scars many of which were cigarette burns. He described what he saw as “the worst case of child abuse I’ve ever encounter.” Both Marie-Therese Kouao and Carl Manning were charged with the murder of Victoria Climbie. When they were interviewed they both claimed that Victoria was possessed. They were sentence to life in prison for what Judge Howkins described as Victoria’s “lonely drawn out death”.

The death of Victoria could have been avoided had the correct decisions been made from those assigned to protect her. There were gross failures of the system. The inquiry report confirms that there were at least 13 occasions where relevant services could have intervened and help Victoria but they failed to do so. This intervention would not have put heavy demands on staff, or required great skill so it is shocking to all that no action was ever taken. Another failure was adequacy of the system. Lord Lamming argued that “had Ealing, in my view, done the job they should have done on the second day that Victoria was in this country, it is probable that all of the other agencies would not have needed to be involved.” He also pointed out that at the time of Victoria’s case Ealing Social services were spending significantly below their Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) on services for children. Child protection services also failed Victoria by failure to implement the Children Act 1989. This was described by Laming as a “basically sound legislation”. The main aims of the Act are: to bring together private and public law in one framework; to achieve a better balance between protecting children and enabling parents to challenge state intervention; to encourage greater partnership between statutory authorities and parents; to promote the use of voluntary arrangements; to restructure the framework of the courts to facilitate management of family proceedings. Had this act have been implemented it is almost certain that Victoria’s end would not have been the tragedy that it was.

Not only did these failings have a profound effect on the service user leading to her death. It also impacted the organisation as a whole. An inquiry was called after the conviction of Kouao and Manning. There were questions that had been raised about the involvement of social workers which Carole Baptiste, the Senior social worker for Victoria’s case, failed to attend. She was tried for deliberately breaching an inquiry summons and was fined £500. Henry (2008) states “the tragic death of Victoria Climbie, in Haringey, at the hands of her great-aunt and the woman’s boyfriend, sparked an independent inquiry by Lord Laming, a children’s bill and structural changes to social services departments across the country” A database suggested by Laming was to be introduced which will have all the necessary details of 11million children including GP’s, Schools and Social workers working with them. There was also the appointment of a children’s commissioner, the merging of council education and social services departments and the establishment of local safeguarding children boards, made up of senior council officials, social workers, police, education and health staff. The inspection of children’s services has also been brought under Ofsted’s remit. If a child protection system has different structures, systems and functioning in different areas, it has the potential to cause serious complications. Because of this there were new local government structures introduced. There was also a suggestion for a national child protection agency but this was rejected. There was also a recommendation for a new Social services structure which is below:

  • Ministerial Children and Families board
  • National Agency for Children and Families
  • (Children’s Commissioner for England)
  • Regional Office
  • Local Member Committee
  • For Children and Families
  • Management Board for Services
  • To Children and Families
  • Local Forum
  • Director of children and families’
  • Services
  • Social Services
  • Safeguarding Children
  • Other
  • Police
  • Health
  • Services

In conclusion the organisation structure for the Social Services is critical to the smooth running of the services they offer and to the safe guarding of their service users. If legislations and policies are not followed then the structure can fail not only the organisation but the service users. The Hierarchy system is still in place with the Social Services to date and with the changes that have been implicated to not only the structure but the organisation as whole should ensure smooth running in the future with correct decisions being made by those who need to make them.


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